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2021 Speaker Bios

Keynote Speaker

Zena Cardman, NASA Astronaut

Zena Cardman was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. She reported for duty in August 2017 and, having completed the initial astronaut candidate training, is now eligible for a mission assignment. The Virginia native holds a Bachelor’s of Science in biology and a Master’s of Science in marine sciences from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Her research focused primarily on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Cardman’s experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions. 

At the University of North Carolina, Cardman studied microbial systems in hydrocarbon seeps, hydrothermal vents and the Arctic. During that time, she also worked with the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research group in Antarctica, analyzing ecosystem changes as part of a multi-decadal study. Cardman has additional experience with NASA-supported research in British Columbia, the Canadian high Arctic, Idaho and Hawaii, and has sailed with the Sea Education Association as Assistant Engineer. At the time of her selection in June 2017, Cardman was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the Pennsylvania State University, investigating microbial metabolism and biogeochemical cycling in cave systems.

Cardman’s awards and honors include: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2012-17); Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium Fellowships (2015-16); Royster Society Distinguished Graduate Fellowship (2012-14); Irene F. Lee Chancellor’s Award for Most Outstanding Senior Woman (2010); North Carolina Space Grant Fellowships (2008-10, 2013-14); Chancellor’s Carolina Scholarship (2006-10).

Session 1: Research and Technology Applications

NC Space Grant alumni will discuss their exciting work — at NASA centers and in industry — and its real-world application in the space arena. The session includes professionals who had received undergraduate scholarships, graduate research fellowships and/or internships funded by NC Space Grant. (Click on session heading for list of speakers.)

Session 2: NC Space Grant Student Lightning Talks

Seven 2020-21 NC Space Grant funded fellows, scholars and interns from a variety of STEM disciplines will present their work in a live session. They are from several universities across North Carolina. Other NC Space Grant students funded in 2019-20 and 2020-21 have prepared pre-recorded talks and posters, which are accessible via “Student Presentations” in the menu at right. (Click on session heading for list of speakers.)    

Session 3: Careers in Space Panel

Technical experts in diverse fields will share their own academic and career pathways, plus provide current students information on today’s recruitment trends and other tips to finding a great first job or making the next step. The moderated Q&A period with these NC Space Grant partners will give students a chance to ask questions. (Click on session heading for list of speakers.)